A Great Neck resident recently competed in the Hampton Classic, an equestrian competition that draws thousands of people from all over the world. Sophie Baghdassarian, 24, competed with the Long Island Horse Show Series for Riders with Disabilities Division.
Held in Bridgehampton, the 45th annual Hampton Classic Horse Show took place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 and featured about 1,500 horses in over 200 competitions, according to the show’s website. For the week, age groups starting at 14-year-old juniors all the way up to grand prix horse jumping, the highest level in the sport, competed for part of the $800,000 in total prize money.
Baghdassarian, who has been to the competition multiple times, said she thought it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“It was great to be back after COVID,” she said. “Every time I ride, every time I’m on the horse it puts me at peace.”
Horseback riding, which Baghdassarian has done for over 15 years, has been a family affair. Her first taste came after watching her sister, Anoush, ride. After experiences in other sports such as soccer, softball and tennis, riding clicked more naturally for her when she started.
“When she dropped it, that was my signal to jump on and it ended up being the best decision,” Baghdassarian said. “Multiple doors have opened thanks to my riding career.”
A hobby that started at 6 years old eventually turned into a more competitive schedule once Baghdassarian graduated from high school. Instead of being involved in shows held at the local barn, more travel and commitment were required to pursue a higher level, her sister said.
Training for Baghdassarian involves riding at a Brookville facility once a week throughout the year, and increasing the workload based on what shows are coming up. In order to qualify for the Hampton Classic, where Baghdassarian won the 2019 championship in the Advanced Independent division, there are three or four seasonal events throughout the year, according to Anoush.
Outside the stable, Sophie Baghdassarian likes to stay as active off the horse as she is on it. An employee of the Great Neck Park District, the rider maintains an active YouTube profile under the name “Sophie The Equestrian” and maintains a side business. Baghdassarian said her goal is to save up enough money for a horse of her own.
Anoush said she sees horseback riding as a great outlet for Sophie to pursue passions and be involved not only with a community but also animals that could not be more accepting.
“Horseback riding is a great outlet for her to not only socialize with others at the barn but to also benefit from the therapeutic effects of riding,” Anoush Baghdassarian said.
Aware of the fact that she cannot compete forever, Sophie Baghdassarian knows what her future holds. Along with saving up for that horse, she said she will never leave the sport that has given so much to her.
“I will always be involved with horses; that will never leave me,” Baghdassarian said. “It’s in my blood. Once an equestrian, always an equestrian.”